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California Mom Held for Weeks Recounts Ordeal to Cops

Sherri Papini, a mother of two, was branded by her captors during her abduction and three-week ordeal before she was released in a rural area.
Image: Sherri Papini
Sherri Papini is seen in this photo distributed by the Shasta County Sheriff's Office on Nov. 4 after Papini went missing.Shasta County Sheriff's Office

A California woman held captive for weeks and branded before she was released last week has been able to recall her ordeal to detectives but a motive in the abduction is still unclear, the Shasta County sheriff said Wednesday.

Sherri Papini, a 34-year-old mother of two from Redding, was found bound along Interstate 5 in Yolo County at around 4:30 a.m. Thanksgiving Day, more than three weeks after she was abducted on Nov. 2, authorities said.

Papini was kept isolated by her captors, described as two Hispanic women who were armed with a handgun and frequently wore masks, Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko told reporters. At one point Papini was branded by the suspects, but Bosenko wouldn’t describe if a message was branded on to her or where.

"The interviews were very intense, for both the investigators and for Sherri, with her having to relive this traumatic event," Bosenko said, of the interviews with detectives, which took place over the last two days. "She was cooperative and courageous during the interviews."

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Bosenko spoke with reporters about the chilling abduction a day after Papini’s husband, Keith Papini, said in a statement to ABC’s "Good Morning America" that she was badly bruised and had a broken nose, her long blonde hair chopped off, and she weighed only 87 pounds after she was able to flag down a passing driver after being released by her captors last week.

Keith Papini said in the statement that his wife "was thrown from a vehicle with a chain around her waist, attached to her wrists and a bag over her head. The same bag she used to flag someone down once she was able to free one of her hands."

Bosenko said Papini was found in a rural part of Yolo County near County Road 17 and Interstate 5, around 150 miles away from Redding.

Bosenko wouldn’t release all details about the investigation, but said detectives are still trying to determine why she was abducted. The suspects are still at large and investigators are trying to identify them, he said.

"We still do not have a motive as to the reason why Mrs. Papini was taken. We do not know if she was a specific target or if this was a random abduction,” Bosenko said.

Related: Desperate Search Underway for Missing California Mother, Sherri Papini

Keith Papini in the statement this week said he has been dismayed by doubts expressed online questioning his wife’s abduction.

"Rumors, assumptions, lies and hate have been both exhausting and disgusting ... I understand people want the story, pictures, proof that this was not some sort of hoax, plan to gain money or some fabricated race war," Keith Papini said in the statement to GMA. "I do not see a purpose in addressing each preposterous lie."

Investigators are evaluating whether they have enough details to generate sketches of the suspects — they wore masks, and Papini’s head was covered at times as well, Bosenko said.

Papini was last seen jogging in her neighborhood Nov. 2 before she disappeared, and her cell phone was found on the ground near an intersection, authorities have said. She was shown surveillance video of sport utility vehicles near the scene of her abduction but didn't recognize any of the vehicles, Bosenko said.

Bozsenko wouldn't say where Papini was taken after she was abducted. He said a number of items that could be evidence has been found in Yolo County, but wouldn't elaborate.

"We are thankful that Sherri has been reunited with her family and ask that you keep the Papini family in your thoughts and prayers throughout this holiday season," Bosenko said.